Yurtel: They even put eye masks on the pillows here
When Katy Guest decided to take her parents to the Big Chill, there was only one style of camping that would do. Cue Yurtel
Sunday 22 August 2010
It was during a protracted exchange of emails ensuring the immediate and continual availability of caffeine at the Big Chill festival that it first dawned on me how far Yurtel is from your bog-standard festival experience.
"Can the 13-amp plug sockets cope with a mini travel kettle?" I was fretting. "Are Calor Gas stoves allowed in the Tangerine Fields?" And "How stumbly a walk is the nearest source of water for a mildly arthritic Aged P?" The patient woman pointed out very kindly that breakfasts, teas and coffees are all cooked and brewed for free for Yurtel guests. You just turn up at the café. It's all going to be OK.
There comes a point, about six months into planning a trip to a music festival with your 60-year-old parents, when this kind of reassurance is almost tear-inducingly welcome. Don't get me wrong: my folks are pretty cool. They backpacked recently around Thailand. They're seasoned veterans of Fairport Convention's Cropredy festival in Oxfordshire, where parking is tent-side and so campers are within easy reach of the entire stock of Millets and the kitchen sink. Post-retirement, they are flirting with going to Glastonbury. But they wanted a festival challenge – and they deserved to do it in style.
The Big Chill is just the place to test your festival abilities, as it happens. With Paloma Faith, MIA, Bebel Gilberto, Lily Allen, the Hoochie Coochie Kabaret (DON'T watch it with your parents!) and Howard Marks on the bill, teenaged girls in flowery garlands floating around the site, lampshades on the street lighting and every tiny detail seemingly finished with meticulous care, it's friendly, comfortable and constantly surprising.
But if you want to go camping with your family as a grown-up and live to tell the tale, the Big Chill really needs to live up to its name. I couldn't see my folks being very chilled out by rolling out of a scout tent in the middle of the night and skidding down a hill into a flooded Portaloo, so we headed straight for the posh end and explored the "tents, tipis and a range of boutique options" available in the Tangerine Fields.
The Podpads looked adorable – cute little colourful boxes with solar-powered sunflowers on top. But none of us felt we were likely to be naughty enough to have to sleep in a dog kennel. The pre-erected tents must be tempting for some – but surely half the fun of camping is in putting your tent up. The Myhabs were apparently "green, affordable and hassle-free", but they did look just a little bit like big square wheelie bins lying on their sides. But the new Belle by Yurtel ... that was obviously our kind of place.
And so it turned out. The Yurtel set-up had been slightly hamstrung, we later discovered, by having its location moved at the last minute to a spot far from any parking. So, we arrived at reception very unchilled. Decidedly heated, in fact. (NB: if you're going to any festival apart from Cropredy, it's probably best not to bring the entire stock of Millets and the kitchen sink.)
Fortunately, the Belle is a good place for a stressed person to arrive. With a queen-sized, double-height airbed, Cath Kidston-esque flowery bed linen, eye masks on the pillows, a doormat, carpet, bedside lamps, plug sockets and space – it's how I'd like to imagine arriving at a country house weekend.
Some of the benefits of Yurtel living can't help but lead to their own drawbacks, of course. Our private toilets, with mosaic-tiled splashbacks and Mandarin & Bergamot hand cream, were accessible only with the secret code on our wristbands – until some generous type revealed the code to everyone and the bogs broke down under the pressure. The secure, child-friendly enclosure and the offer of Boutique Baby Sitting ("Fancy a little break from the kids this weekend?" It's only £12 an hour but, unfortunately for our parents, it's only for children aged two to eight) meant that a sloane of little Ollies, Mollies, Raffies and Willows skipped charmingly about the field doing gymkhanas over (and into) the guy ropes. They did make us laugh when they demanded asparagus on their pizzas.
The Fire in the Hole pizza oven and the Field Kitchen café, incidentally, have no drawbacks; they're amazing. Run by a group of amiable Northumbrians who somehow retain a sense of humour while slaving over hot stoves from 7am till 1am, it bakes thousands of perfect pizzas in a wood-fired oven and churns out teas, proper coffees and bacon baps that are worth putting your wellies on and getting out of a tent for.
After a night on the hot spicy cider, whizzing down a slide at the Ziggurat of Flavour and dancing to soul tunes on a nameless stage somewhere you can never find again, there's only one thing better than a hangover breakfast, and that's getting it made for you for free. You do feel a bit guilty marching past the sweaty tent-dwellers with your fancy Yurtel wristband and asserting your right to two free baps with everything. But hey, anything for the parents.
How to get there
Yurtel (yurtel.co.uk) has limited availability at Electric Picnic and Bestival, with prices from £695.
Tangerine Fields (tangerinefields .co.uk); The Fire in the Hole (thefireinthehole.co.uk).
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